An investigation into the association between cpb2-encoding Clostridium perfringens type A and diarrhea in neonatal piglets.
To investigate the possible role of cpb2-positive type A Clostridium perfringens in neonatal diarrheal illness in pigs, the jejunum and colon of matched normal and diarrheic piglets from 10 farms with a history of neonatal diarrhea were examined grossly and by histopathology, and tested for C. perfringens, for C. perfringens beta2 (CPB2) toxin, as well as for Clostridium difficile toxins, Salmonella, enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, rotavirus, transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) virus, and coccidia. Clostridium perfringens isolates were tested using a multiplex real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to determine the presence of cpa, consensus and atypical cpb2, and other virulence-associated genes. The numbers of C. perfringens in the intestinal contents were lower in diarrheic piglets (log10 5.4 CFU/g) compared with normal piglets (log10 6.5 CFU/g) (P<0.05). The consensus cpb2 was present in 93% of isolates in each group, but atypical cpb2 was less common (56% healthy, 32% diarrheic piglets isolates, respectively, P<0.05). The presence of CPB2 toxin in the intestinal contents of normal and diarrheic piglets did not differ significantly. Clostridium difficile toxins and rotavirus were each detected in 7 of the 21 (33%) diarrheic piglets. Rotavirus, C. difficile toxins, Salmonella, or enterotoxigenic E. coli were concurrently recovered in different combinations in 4 diarrheic piglets. The cause of diarrhea in 8 of the 21 (38%) piglets on 6 farms remained unknown. The etiological diagnosis of diarrhea could not be determined in any of the piglets on 2 of the farms. This study demonstrated that the number of cpb2-positive type A C. perfringens in the intestinal contents was not a useful approach for making a diagnosis of type A C. perfringens enteritis in piglets. Further work is required to confirm whether cpb2-carrying type A C. perfringens have a pathogenic role in enteric infection in neonatal swine.